Along with the field research being conducted in various countries around the world to collect all the biological, ecological and genetic information required to create a global comprehensive guide, I am quite often busy travelling to raise awareness through talks and seminars at international scientific conferences, educational institutions and sometimes even dive centres.
My last trip was to the US in July, where I was fortunate enough to travel for a month! I first visited Scripps Institution of Oceanography where I was able to get my hands dirty with the holotype used to describe Mobula munkiana by Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara – this was actually the first time that I encountered this particular species. One of my colleagues, Josh Stewart, was also kind enough to give me an insight into his work and explain how the samples that I had provided from fisheries in South Asia were being put to good use.
I then went to Albuquerque for the 2013 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists where I was able to give a short talk of my mobulid fisheries field-work taking place in India. This was a great place to meet several like-minded individuals working to save both sharks and rays all across the world.
My next stop was Boston, where I was kindly hosted by the New England Aquarium (NEAq) and the Marine Conservation and Action Fund (MCAF) to give a guest lecture to the general public. However before my lecture I had a wonderful afternoon talking about manta rays with the 8-10 graders of their summer camp. This was the first time that I had such a young audience but nonetheless some of the toughest questions I have encountered so far. It is simply amazing to see such young enthusiastic students who are already doing their utmost to help marine conservation. The guest lecture can be seen online at: Aquarium Lecture Series and contains video excerpts from the Al Jazeera documentary outlining both the Sri Lanka Mobulid Ray Project and the international gill-plate trade: Diminishing Ray of Hope
My final destination was Baltimore to attend the International Congress for Conservational Biology which was full of interesting talks that gave me a whole bunch of ideas to work on in the near future in order to improve my data collection for my global ID guide project! All in all this trip was a tremendous success and both the awareness raised and contacts established will help move my project forwards.